Beef producers need to be ready
The last thing a Minnesota beef operator has on his or her immediate list of things to do this time of year is a summer breeding program. The first priority is calving, which some producers began last month. However, University of Minnesota Exten...
The last thing a Minnesota beef operator has on his or her immediate list of things to do this time of year is a summer breeding program.
The first priority is calving, which some producers began last month.
However, University of Minnesota Extension specialist Dr. Ryon Walker says there are issues that producers must now be addressing for a successful breeding season in the months ahead.
Walker was one of the featured speakers earlier this month at the annual Beef Cow/Calf Days in Bagley.
For years, Extension specialists and veterinarians have been recommending that cattlemen can shorten the breeding season -- which cuts days off the calving season -- by using estrous synchronization.
To realize that, according to Walker, producers must understand a cow's biological clock and how they can use that to their advantage.
Statistics indicate less than 12 percent of U.S. beef producers used estrous synchronization in 1998, and only 14 percent incorporated artificial insemination into their programs.
Walker said the reasons range from the attitude that these techniques don't work to factors involving costs, time, labor and facilities.
But, continued Walker, there are benefits: tighter breeding and calving seasons, less time needed for heat detection, increased time for postpartum recovery, an easier way to introduce new herd genetics, and improved calf uniformity and growth performance.
Extension's Beef Research Center at Grand Rapids has developed 21 "protocols" that cattlemen can use for a synchronization program. That list can be accessed at the Web site www.extension.umn.edu/beef . Producers can also purchase a CD planner for $25 from the center.
Walker said each protocol has been proven, but some procedures may be confusing. Some protocols are relatively simple.
Walker said one of the easiest methods for cows is to insert a CIDR for seven days, with no prostaglandin injections, remove the CIDR after that period and turn the cows out with a herd bull.
Extension forage specialist Russ Mathison reminded producers that feed costs represent over 50 percent of their production costs. For that reason, pastures are a much cheaper way of feeding cattle.
Mathison said if producers can extend the grazing season for their herds, they will be money ahead.
Toward that end, Mathison said producers may want to selectively test the pastures' soil fertility for a better understanding of what nutrients are present for optimal grass growth.
If nitrogen is needed, Mathison suggested a split application during the growing season, at rates of approximately 40 pounds per application. On grass/legume pastures, Mathison said the application rate should be 60 pounds per acre annually.
Phosphorus and potassium should be applied in the spring. He said it will aid root growth and winter hardiness.
Another method to extend the grazing season is rotational grazing. Mathison said producers will discover it not only adds to the number of grazing days, but also the pasture life.
For pasture renovation, Mathison suggested seeding one or two types of grasses along with a legume. The former will also minimize the possibility of bloat, which can be caused by eating legumes.
Mathison said research trials at the center have found that a pasture mix of reed canarygrass and alfalfa is especially useful for producers using a shortened breeding season.